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Indonesian Ferry Sinks: At Least 9 Dead, Some 230 Survive


INDONESIA - FERRY: Indonesian transportation officials say at least nine people were killed and more than 230 were rescued Sunday after a ferry sank in rough waters near Sumatra island. The French news agency quotes a local official as saying at least 21 people were killed. Some reports say the ferry may have been filled beyond its capacity of 273 people. The director-general of sea transport said 213 passengers were on the manifest. He said the disparity between reality and the manifest was a "classic case" of breaking regulations. Authorities say the Dumai Express 10 was sailing from Batam island to Riau province Sunday morning when it sank. Separately, another ferry, the Dumai Express 15 with 278 people on board, ran aground Sunday after it was hit by large waves on its way from Batam to Moro island. Authorities say all passengers and crew survived.
Indonesians rely heavily on ferries to transport them between the thousands of islands that make up the archipelago. Ferry accidents are common due to bad weather, poor infrastructure and a tendency to overload vessels

IRAN - POL: Iran has sentenced a former vice president who protested Iran's disputed presidential election to six years in jail. Those close to reformist Mohammad Ali Abtahi said Sunday he was was notified about his sentence on Saturday. Iran's judiciary found him guilty of provoking people to riot against the government. Abtahi was jailed a few days after the June 12 vote. He reportedly expressed regret for taking part in the protests, but family members said his statements were obtained under duress. President Ahmadinejad's re-election in June caused massive protests by Iranians who felt the vote was fraudulent. Many people were reported killed in the government crackdown, and more than 1,000 political activists, journalists and other were detained.

INDIA - BOMBS: Police in India say two bomb blasts have killed six people and wounded more than 50 others in northeastern Assam state. Police say bombs hidden in bicycles exploded minutes apart Sunday outside a police station and a shopping complex in the town of Nalbari. Security forces have placed the troubled state on high alert. Police suspect that the separatist group United Liberation Front of Asom was behind the blasts. But rebel leaders have denied the group's involvement. Last week, police in India blamed ULFA militants for a powerful explosion that derailed a freight train and set 12 oil tanker railcars on fire. Officials say the train's guard and driver safely escaped after the attack.

AFGHANISTAN: An Afghan security official says a roadside bomb killed five Afghan border guards in southern Kandahar province. Border security commander General Abdul Raziq said a pre-dawn patrol Sunday hit the bomb while driving down a major road in the Spin Boldak district bordering Pakistan.
The French news agency says Taliban militants have claimed responsibility for the attack. In violence Saturday, Afghan officials said a rocket struck near a luxury hotel in central Kabul, wounding four people. An Interior Ministry spokesman (Zamary Bashary) told VOA the rocket exploded on a road between a hospital and the Serena Hotel. At least one Afghan soldier was among those wounded. The hotel is popular among foreigners and located near the presidential palace, government ministries and embassies.

IRAQ POLITICS: Iraqi lawmakers meet again Sunday to try and resolve a deadlock on an election law required for general elections in January. Members of parliament will continue negotiations that began Saturday after Sunni Arab Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi vetoed the law and sent it back to parliament earlier in the week. The vice president wants more representation for Iraqis living abroad, many of whom are Sunni Arabs. After the veto, Iraq's electoral commission halted general election preparations. Members of Iraq's electoral commission say the deadlock over the election law likely will delay the January vote. Parliament has the option of amending the law to address Hashemi's concerns, or sending it back to the presidency council, where it may be vetoed again.

THAILAND - HMONG:Human Rights Watch has urged Thailand to release 158 Lao Hmong refugees it has held for three years and allow them to resettle in Thailand and other countries. The New York-based group says Thai authorities are keeping the refugees in poor and abusive conditions in violation of international refugee law. It says the Thai government has used intimidation and the denial of basic necessities to coerce Hmong refugees to return to Laos. In a letter Friday to Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, Human Rights Watch says it urged the government to end immediately what it calls an "immoral and unlawful policy." The rights group says countries including the United States, Canada, the Netherlands and Australia have already agreed to accept the refugees, and there is no reason to hold them any longer. The United Nations made a similar appeal to Thailand Tuesday.

US - NOKOR: A group of U.S. experts on Korean affairs is beginning a four-day visit to North Korea Saturday for talks on the country's nuclear weapons program. South Korea's Yonhap news agency quotes diplomatic sources as saying the visit is expected to pave the way for U.S. special envoy for North Korea Stephen Bosworth. Bosworth will visit Pyongyang December 8 with the goal of resuming six-party talks aimed at getting North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons. U.S. President Barack Obama announced the envoy's visit after a summit with his South Korean counterpart, Lee Myung-bak, Thursday in Seoul.

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